What’s your internal communications culture?

What’s your internal communications culture?

Human resources professionals often help shape companies' internal communications. Photo via fb.com

The explosion of communication paths in the digital age has introduced a whole new range of possibilities in how teams communicate.

Communication activities routinely carried out today often are feats that would've never been considered 15 years ago.

For example, conducting a presentation during a layover in the airport to teammates hundreds of miles away, retrieving a crucial file at the beach for a co-worker many miles away or shooting an email over to a worker on a Sunday afternoon asking for more details for a Monday morning pitch are mainstream communication for many businesses in 2013.  We have more possibilities to connect than ever before!

Internal communications without standards

Unfortunately, increased potential for internal communication mishaps accompanies this explosion of possibilities in organizations that don’t clearly establish consistent communication cultures.

If your company doesn't have consistent over the web presentation expectations, then more technically inclined team members may smoothly initiate those presentations while sitting in the airport, but the less tech motivated may say “let’s wait until next week.”

One co-worker may be able to retrieve files at the beach, while others may find it impossible due to lack of knowledge, appropriate computer platform or desire to be disturbed out of the office — and team members might not know whether to even ask for such a favor.

And some team members may routinely and happily check their email at the end of a weekend, while others may be horrified at the thought and always wait until returning to work on Monday.

Many companies leave their teams to wade through such a sea of varying self-defined approaches without providing recommended default guidelines or standard expectations that can eliminate ambiguity.

The productivity costs of a wide variety of approaches can be significant.

For example, assume you're confirming the start time of a remote location meeting with a co-worker the day before.

How do you do it?

Your options could range from email to text, to phone voice mail, to Facebook message, to Skype, to LinkedIn message, to calendaring.

You could have a large list of communications tools to consult before honing in on the right path and an increased chance of missing the intended communication.

This challenge is often looked at as the challenge of the individual worker to address through knowledge of the styles of their co-workers.

Defining internal communications standards

But it doesn’t have to be that hard.

A business can define and declare its intended “techno-use” culture that it expects to be used by default.

Are your managerial team members always expected to check email at the end of the weekend?

If so, the business should state this. If not, then the business shouldn’t expect an email sent Saturday morning to be viewed before Monday morning.

Likewise, if a team member who's rushing to confirm details of a meeting with a co-worker knows the team member always checks calendar details on their smartphone first, rather than voice mail, it makes the meeting arrangement process clear.

Stating this as the normal approach eliminates guesswork with each different colleague.

Calling out these approaches may seem too trivial and situational to warrant the effort of outlining these to a company. 

However, the business advantages of clearly stating how to communicate between team members, with which technologies, and what to expect out of co-workers on off-hour contacts can make the difference between a ragged organization that scrambles — and a smooth-running company where everyone is always in the loop.

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Keith Brophy, a technology entrepreneur, is CEO of award-winning Ideomed, which specializes in chronic disease self-management web and mobile tools. Previously, he was CEO and co-founder of Sagestone, president and co-owner of NuSoft Solutions and served in various technology and leadership roles at IBM, X-Rite and RCM Technologies. Keith is chairman of the advisory board for the Michigan Small Business and Technology Center, a past West Michigan entrepreneur of the year and for many years, has addressed audiences across the nation on future trends. Follow him on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/streamrun">@streamrun</a>

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